Her crossed arms answered her question before she spoke.
She didn’t have to speak. The look on her face. The trademark crossed arms. Her favored one hip stance. All did the speaking for her.
“It’s just been such a long week. And I really want to get to the airport,” I tried to explain. Twisting in my chair.
“But what about dinner? You have to eat, ” my grandmother said.
Leaning forward, I tried to justify my actions. “But Anna is so exhausted. I am, too. I’m so sorry. I know we promised but I want to avoid the traffic. We’ll pick up something quick on the way.”
“Do you think you’ll be back for Thanksgiving?” she asked, eyebrows raised. Hopeful.
“I’m not sure,” I said, letting my voice trail off. I knew I wouldn’t. Maybe Christmas. Maybe next spring. But I was tired of the 1200 mile journeys. I wanted a break.
“It’s OK,” my sister chimed in, “I’ll bring the kids by next week and we can have lunch.” Trying to come to my rescue. It’s little consolation. I’m the one who lives so far away.
Then we said our goodbyes. And watched her on the driveway with her arms crossed. Not smiling, yet trying not to look disappointed.
Twelve years later the image haunts me.
“You have to stop beating yourself up over this,” my sister says to me over the phone.
I shift uncomfortably. I close my eyes. “I know. But I can’t.”
“There was no way you could know she was going to die. No one knew. She was always so vibrant. Even the doctor didn’t see it coming.”
“But I should have at least had dinner with her like we promised,” my eyes watering remembering my last broken promise to her. “I never even called her. That was the last time we spoke.”
“She’s moved on and so should you.” My sister is tired of this conversation. So am I. But that image of her still haunts me. That last image.
“Do you really think she’s forgiven me?” I ask, standing up now, watching a cardinal on our birdfeeder.
“Yes. She forgave you moments after you left,” my sister sighs into the phone.
“Ok. Thanks.” Not convinced, I hang up the receiver. And walk to the window to watch the birds flit back and forth. Leaning on one hip. Brow furrowed.
And arms crossed.
(This post was inspired by KitchWitch’s post which was inspired by the writing prompt at Write On Edge. Please visit Write on Edge for more inspired writing!)
13 responses to “She’s Moved On And So Should You”
This one made me cry.
Oh. Talk about heartbreaking. I love how you describe the grandmother’s actions as the “classic” pose. It’s amazing how people develop those body language cues that we tie to them specifically.
I enjoyed reading this a lot, the inner struggle and the difficulty in moving on from that guilt.
A small detail, but I would change:
I’m not sure,” I said, letting my voice trail off. I knew I wasn’t.
to “…I knew I wouldn’t.” to keep your tenses the same.
I really like that the pose was mimicked at the end, consciously or unconsciously.
Thanks. Writing in the moment I hadn’t noticed that. Consider it done. 🙂
So sad. But I’m not sure many of us get a chance to have a flawless last moment with someone. There’s life that gets in the way, and too tired with a long trip ahead qualifies as “I wish it could have been different but I can forgive myself” in my book.
You didn’t yell or call her names. You didn’t curse her. You didn’t disappoint her because of who you are. In fact, you made her proud every single day because of who you are. You put off that one meal for a day that never came. But you gave her years and years and years of being the most awesome you had, and she did the same.
Call it way more than even.
And forgive yourself.
She loved you then, she loves you now. Love yourself and forgive. .
My heart ached for you when I realized you were reliving a memory. I, too, am the one who moved far away. Once, when I came home to visit, my grandfather asked, “Who are you?” I made my mother cry one year because I came home the day after Christmas, thereby missing opening presents under the tree and the feast. Once we start having families of our own, our focus shifts a bit. I can see me doing the same thing – worrying about traffic and the need to prepare for the flight. I think it’s ok. I think it is natural. Even so, I am sorry you missed that dinner, because here you are still thinking about it.
I can only echo what others have said. You gave your grandmother years of love, even from a distance. She knew you loved her. I am sure she forgave you. I hope you can forgive yourself. There must be so many wonderful memories to dwell on. You made me think about my own grandparents today – not with regret, but with fond memories. Thank you.
I loved the ending – as your own body language imitates that of your grandmother. A beautiful tribute.
You are all so sweet. Yes, this is how I feel 12 years after her death. We promised her we’d have an early dinner with her and then we backed out at the last minute because I was feeling anxious about making our flight. I was flying alone with my 7 year old. We shortened our visit with her because I had spent most of my time with my other grandmother who had had a stroke. Ironically, it was the “healthy” grandmother who died just a week later. I’m still having a hard time forgiving myself. But your words of encouragement help. Thank you.
My Mom died suddenly 10 days after I visited her. Happend out of the blue. I always thought I’d have another visit, never stayed long enough for her, or me. I miss her every day, as I’m sure you miss your grandmother.
Aw, what a poignant memoir and welcome to the world of Write on Edge! It’s so hard looking back at the decisions we made with hindsight but we can only act in the present. 🙂
What a tough last memory and it’s beautifully told. Thank you for sharing it.
That was powerful. Grief and guilt do funny things to us. She loved you. She forgave you.
Poignant and so touching. Thank you for having the courage to write it. xoxo